Thursday 15 November 2018, 1.00PM
Speaker(s): Dr Sophie Nixon, Manchester
The deep terrestrial subsurface hosts a substantial fraction of the Earth’s biomass in the form of microorganisms. For the most part, this microbial life is isolated from the activity of humankind above. Yet, as we continue to exploit the deep subsurface for waste disposal and energy extraction, the role these microorganisms play in engineering interventions becomes increasingly important. Shale gas extraction by means of hydraulic fracturing is one such intervention, one that we now know creates new microbial ecosystems deep in the terrestrial subsurface. Not only are these environments conducive to microbial processes considered deleterious to the extraction process, they also offer a unique opportunity to understand microbial survival in, and adaptation to, the extreme conditions of the deep subsurface. Here, I will present research that probes the microbiology of hydraulically fractured shale ecosystems, focussing on a case study in the Marcellus formation, as well as bespoke high pressure simulation facilities designed to mimic the environment of a hydraulically fractured shale well. The powerful combination of field- and lab-based studies employing cultivation- and DNA-based approaches, provides an unprecedented view of the versatility and resilience of microbial life in the deep terrestrial subsurface.